Colombo, Satire

The Beauty of Barbed Wire: Sri Lanka’s cutting edge exhibition

Banyan News Reporters

Colombo, Sri LankaBanyan News Reporters learns that Sri Lanka will hold the world’s first barbed wire exhibition for 180 days beginning 1st September  at the Bandaranaike Memorial Hall under the auspices of the Ministry of Human Rights Disaster Management. Titled ‘The Beauty of Barbed Wire’ the exhibition will showcase cultural uses and relevance of barded wire in Sri Lanka.

“Barbed wire is such a misunderstood medium. This exhibition will demonstrate the multiple uses for barbed wire in Sri Lanka and the long-standing importance of barbed wire in Sri Lankan culture” says the curator of the exhibition, Katherine Gracious.

The use of barbed wire as an aesthetic boundary is a principal focus of the exhibition. The gardens of the BMICH will also be used for this section of the exhibition with a number of leading garden designers and horticulturalists involved. “While the ‘Rose Barbed Garden’ will be an obvious favourite with the attendees, others such as the ‘Vegetable Coil Garden’ and the ‘Ayurvedic Hook Garden’ will also draw the crowds” said Ms. Gracious, when BNR met her in a tent framed by coils of razor wire that she said will serve as her office for the duration of the exhibition.

“As a Westerner my first reaction to barbed wire was to feel repelled by it. But having seen how it is used so simply and sensitively even in the displacement camps run by the Government, I can see how it makes Sri Lankans across the island feel comfortable and at home. We Westerners might see it as incarceration, but I now know that for Sri Lankans it is about their home and culture” pointed out Ms. Gracious. The exhibition will include a barbed wire poruwa.

According the official sources the exhibition is meant to be part of a public relations exercise by the Government to clear up misunderstandings and false allegations about the camps, including that the liberated people of the Vanni are being detained by the Government.

Barbed Wire that will be on exhibit
Barbed Wire that will be on exhibit

“There is a lot of misunderstanding about the use of barbed wire by outsiders, particularly people from the West” claims Deputy Minister for Human Rights Disaster Management, Dr. Rajpal Wijekoone. “The Western media try to claim that because the camps in Vavuniya use barbed wire, they are internment camps. You see, what they fail to realise is that barbed wire is in fact very much a part of Sri Lankan culture and is actually preferred to coconut or palmyrah fronds because of the ventilation and general unobtrusiveness. This is not something these so called independent media from the West understand. What do they know about our culture? This exhibition will reveal the truth. ”

Leading artists and university art students will also present sculptures made from barbed wire. A number of the commissioned works will feature a patriotic theme with representations of the military and the country’s leaders adorned with barbed wire.

“It will be cutting edge. Sri Lanka has always produced amazing art. But through this exhibition we will leave a mark on the world art map” says the Dean of the Art Faculty, Maithipala Somawansa.

Because of the scale of the exhibition, families will be separated at the entry gate to enable them to see the most amount of exhibits. Dr. Wijekoone stressed this is a novel aspect of the exhibition. “No one can accuse of trying to constrain the movement of patrons to the exhibition. We want the people to see as much as possible while there are in there” he went on to say.

Three leading artists from Israel, China and Iran are also expected to exhibit but officials are tight lipped as to their names and the individual pieces, which will be unveiled by the President on the first day of the exhibition.

BNR received unverified reports that one of the exhibits – a map of Sri Lanka done in barbed wire – has been pulled out of the exhibition due to Ministry officials’ concerns that it could misrepresent the country as an open prison.

The exhibition will have a technical side, demonstrating the various types of barbed wire available in the market and other varieties which will soon be available. “This is a very exciting development for the barbed wire sector” says leading barbed wire importer, David Fernando, Executive Director of David Parts & Company. “The Sri Lankan public will finally get to see various barbed wire that we see only in action films and on news clips of Guantanamo.”

“Sri Lanka could well become the largest consumer per capita of barbed wire internationally, so the key challenge is to remove restrictive taxes and allow the private sector to play a more dominant role” Mr. Fernando went on to say.

Currently Sri Lanka imports the bulk of its barbed wire from China and Pakistan. The reduction in duty levy for barbed wire from the current rate of 12.5% of cost would result in a wider cross section of the population having access to this multi-use material. The Ministry of Hardware Imports was unavailable for comment but a source from the Ministry of Construction Material Imports stated that this is a critical issue that the Minister concerned, M. Vadugodapitiya is keen to address during the course of the exhibition.

Official sources said that all necessary arrangements, including special bus services, refreshment stalls, temporary shelters, toilets and medical services will be available to ensure that members of the general public who visit this unique exhibition are well taken care of.

Over 260,000 are projected to visit the exhibition over 180 days, making this one of the world’s largest events on this nature.